Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ephesians 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32
In today’s Gospel reading, we come to the end of Jesus’ "bread of life" discourse, and we find that many of His disciples are unwilling to accept His words about coming down from heaven and giving His flesh to eat. And so they leave Him. When they do, Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks, "Do you also want to leave?" Peter replies, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, the Son of God come down from heaven to give us eternal life. To whom shall we go? And yet, many times we are tempted to go elsewhere. This temptation has been with us for a long time. In our first reading, after Joshua has led the people into the Promised Land, he asks them whom they will serve. He declares his choice by saying, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." The people respond, "Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods." And yet, there are many instances when the people did just that.
So what is it that takes us away from following Jesus? For some, it may be the implications of getting close to Jesus. The closer we get, the more likely our lives will change. For others, it may be the challenge of the Gospel. In our second reading, St. Paul writes, "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ." When we also hear, "Love your enemies; Forgive seventy-seven times; or, Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me," we may want to resist. And for others, it may be hard for them to believe anyone would love them that much, and they push Jesus away.
Whatever the reason, we need to remember that Jesus does have the words of eternal life for us. We can trust in His love for us. He is the one to whom we can go. By grace we can persevere in following Him, and be with Him forever.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Fairfield, Alabama.